I inhale deeply trying to absorb this sensation as Max’s lips graze my neck lightly. “Are you tired?” His voice whispers in my ear. I smile wickedly before I bite my lip and shake my head in response.
“Strangely I’m not. Would you like to explore Heaven with me?” I ask him playfully as I get to my feet. He looks confused as he stands beside me. I hold my arms open towards the valley below us. “There are a few spots I’d love to show you.” He takes my hand and looks into my eyes seriously.
“McKenna, there are so many questions to be answered.” He offers ruefully. I shake my head at him as I smile brightly.
“Not today there isn’t.” I tell him firmly. “Today, there is just you and me, and this paradise begging to be explored.” He exhales in defeat as he returns my smile and nods in compliance. We set off hiking through the national park as I explain the different aspects of everything that I have learned about the place over the years.
Max smiles brightly at each new discovery as I lead him onwards. It’s hard for him to not think about everything that is troubling him right now, I know it. I have questions as well. Yet I also know all I need to know. I love Max, with all that I am. Now I just need to convince him that he is capable of love as well.
I smile indulgently as Max crouches down close to a rabbit that is completely oblivious to his presence. I take a careful step closer so as not to startle the small creature before I crouch down a little way away from them both. Max—Hell’s most feared warrior—fascinated by a cute fluffy bunny rabbit. I laugh unable to stop myself and Max looks at me curiously as the rabbit disappears frightened by my outburst.
I continue laughing as another creature takes it’s place and Max reaches out to touch it. “No, Max.” I call out but it’s too late. I jump up and flee the opposite direction from a spluttering Max as I try to contain my laughter. I see the small black and white bandit strut away in triumph after delivering its payload.
Max looks at me as I hold my ribs trying to stop myself from breaking open. My laughter and the combination of the stench wafting from Max’s direction brings tears to my eyes. “I’m sorry.” I plead laughing and shaking my head. “I tried to warn you.” Max glares at me playfully as he takes a step towards me. I hold up my hands to signal him to stop where he is.
“Don’t come any closer.” I order him through my laughter. “There is a water hole not far from here, we can try to get that smell off you.”
“What was that?” He asks pointing towards the direction of the retreating creature.
“A skunk.” I manage to spit out before I start laughing again and point in the direction we’re heading. We’ve barely walked twenty feet before I have to stop. I nearly retch in a nearby bush. Max is at my side in an instant.
“Are you alright?” His voice is pure concern and I feel a pang of guilt over what I’m about to do. “What is it?” He asks urgently. I look up at him pleadingly.
“I’m so sorry, but could you please walk downwind from me until we get to the water hole.” I plead guiltily. He crooks an eyebrow up at me as he takes a step back.
“I smell that bad huh?” He queries playfully.
“Worse.” I acknowledge nodding. Max laughs a boisterous laugh at me before walking away from me. It’s easier for him to deal with the smell, he’s been living in an environment permeated with Sulphur for most of his life. I lead the way with Max trailing a good twenty feet behind me. I swear I can still smell it as if he’s right next to me. That skunk got him good. I almost drop to my knees and kiss the ground in appreciation when we reach the lake.
The whooshing sound of Max’s body as he runs past me makes me giggle. He leaps from the bank into the cool clear water, his body creating ripples that obscure the reflected mountains. I stare in wonder as the image of perfectly reflected scenery reappears in the placid surface of the lake. Max stands in the water with only his head not submerged watching me cautiously.
“Will this get the smell off?” He calls out and I smile sadly at him.
“Not all of it. I’m going to go and grab some pine needles to rub on you as well, don’t go anywhere.” I inform him seriously. The last thing I need is him making friends with another skunk. I use this alone time to let my mind wonder into the thoughts I swore to ignore today. My poor papa, the result of a liaison between an angel and a mortal.
I lose a tear at the sorrow of having your entire family wiped out because of the choice of one angel. My poor grandmother who died to save her son, allowing the family line to continue down to me. What am I? Surely if I were a Nephilim I would’ve been destroyed already. So much becomes clear while other things become hazier.
My thoughts must’ve kept me longer than I thought when I feel that warm glow in the pit of my stomach letting me know that Max is nearby. I push all of my thoughts and fears aside as I turn to smile at him. “Where are your clothes?” I laugh at him standing there is all his glory. He shrugs innocently.
“They had to be destroyed, the smell was never coming out of those.” He says deadpan.
“Well it’s a good thing we packed you some more in the car. We should head back towards it before it gets too late.” I tell him as I hold out the handful of pine needles. He stands completely still his eyes daring me in a challenge as I hold my breath and take a step closer to him.
I let my hands rub his entire body with the fresh pine hoping to kill the remaining the traces of the skunk stench. I do the best I can, it’s a definite improvement, but he still stinks. I smile proudly as I wrap my arms around the back of his neck. “Will you transport us to the car please. I don’t want to risk a family of hikers coming across us, more specifically you.” I asks teasingly.
He crooks his eyebrow up at me. “You hate travelling like that.” He reminds me. I shrug.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I admonish. He smiles crookedly.
“You don’t want to take advantage of that deserted lake?” He enquires with a seductive lilt. I shake my head at him seriously and he looks stung. “Is it because I still reek? I thought you were above such superficial flaws.”
“That is not a superficial flaw. That is a bone deep, retch inducing stench. I’m sorry that my feeble mortal senses are too infected with your overpowering aroma to want to be ravaged by you right now.” I shoot back at him. He suppresses a smile at my words. His arms wind around my waist tightly before we dissolve into nothing.
I drop to my knees by my car and heave, releasing my stomach of its entire contents.
“McKenna?” Max’s concerned voice pleads as he drops to his knees beside me. I shake my head at him and hold my hand out to keep him back as I dry retch. I look at him apologetically.
“Sulphur, skunk, I’m sorry I just need a minute.” I plead. I try to take deep breaths as Max gets to his feet and opens the car. I can hear the sound of him searching for clothes and dressing as I pull myself back to my feet and lean against the hood of the car just breathing in the cool forest air with my eyes closed.
Max joins me with a concerned look on his face. I smile sweetly at him. He leans closer for a kiss before I dart away from him to the passenger side of the car. He looks confused by the action as I reach into the glove compartment to pull out the gum and shove too many pieces into my mouth. He shakes his head and smiles at me.
“If you think you’re getting out of me kissing you, you’re dead wrong.” He says threateningly as he stalks towards me. I look at him pleadingly as his lips caress mine gently, before trailing along my jaw and down my neck. I push him away from me feebly. My entire body protests my actions in revolt. I reach back into the car to grab my sleeping bag and supplies.
“We should go make camp for the night. I know the perfect place.” I tell him with a smile. Max just falls into line taking my bag from me and taking my hand in his. We walk in silence enjoying the fading light of the day as the tops of the trees try desperately to maintain their grasp on the light. We climb to the highest point of a nearby rocky hill where the sun is still painting the rock face.
I close my eyes and hold my arms out to my side facing the Western horizon letting the sunlight bathe me as it reluctantly surrenders to the night. I open my eyes to see Max watching me intently. I smile sweetly at him. “We need fire wood.” I instruct him. He nods in compliance as we walk back towards the forest.
“Don’t lose sight of me.” He instructs seriously. I laugh at him as I continue picking up large branches and kindling.
“Oh honey I don’t need to be able to see you, I guarantee I could find you by smell within a three-mile radius.” I tease him. He rolls his eyes at me.
“You could not.” He challenges. I stare at him defiantly.
“Let’s have a game of hide and seek then.” I offer as I place a hand over my eyes and start to count. I hear him laugh but it’s playful.
“Fine, no peeking.” He instructs before I hear the sounds of twigs snapping and leaves bristling from contact. I laugh as I keep my eyes closed for the count. I open my eyes and scan the area, he’s gone. I decide to drop my bundle of sticks at the camp spot before I go searching for him. I was only teasing him about the smell. It’s not really as bad as before, but there is another way I can find him that he is unaware of.
I walk back towards the forest feeling the burning embers in my belly turn cooler. I turn the opposite way and the warm glow pulses steadily in my core. I smile knowingly to myself letting the warmth guide me through the twilight draped forest towards Max. I adjust my trajectory every so often until I come to a small clearing.
The fire is practically licking at my ribs beneath my skin, but I can’t see him. I turn in a circle in the center of the clearing before I actually catch a hint of the stench of skunk on the breeze. I giggle as I realize he’s downwind and walk towards that end of the clearing. The fire in my stomach is blazing with excitement as I look up into the tree tops to see Max’s hulking form hanging from a lower branch.
He looks devastated at being discovered. I smile up at him and wink. “Found you.” He drops down to the ground lading with the grace of a jungle cat.
“I can’t believe the smell is really that bad?” He admonishes in disbelief. I laugh at him as I take his hand in mine and we start to make our way back to the campsite.